Waking Ned is an ensemble British comedy in a similar vein to The Englishman who Went up a Hill but Came down a Mountain. Instead of mountains, however these small town folk are interested in money and instead of being Welsh they’re Irish. When Jackie O’Shea discovers that one of his fellow villagers has won the lottery he enlists the help of his old friend Michæl O’Sullivan to track down the lucky sod. They find the winner, Ned Devine, in bed clutching the winning ticket with a stiffening smile plastered across his face. After playing the lottery all his life he’s finally died from the shock of actually winning. Jackie and Michæl then enlist the help of the entire town to trick the Lotto representative into believing that Michæl is actually Ned so they can collect Ned’s winnings.
This is award wining commercial director Kirk Jones’ first feature film. It contains several funny scenes and one downright hilarious one involving a mean old lady and a phone box. While one can detect a genuinely amusing screenplay somewhere under the flat direction and mysteriously stiff performances, the film is tediously slow. The actors seem to pause too long between lines and the storytelling is far too smooth. Jackie and Michæl establish their goal and encounter only a few glitches, but no real setbacks, on the way to achieving it. The story makes a couple of unconvincing attempts to show how the money will help this or that person pull their lives together, but this doesn’t change the reality that Waking Ned is about a town full of people chasing money they don’t really need. Basically, Jones garnered a cute story concept from a news clipping but was unable to take it anywhere.